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Summer camps are junking regimentation in favor of a relatively new but thoroughly tested concept: a child does best what he wants to do

It's summertime, and for several million American parents the livin' is made a good deal easier by the fact that their children are packed away in some of the country's 11,000 summer camps. The livin' isn't really hard for the children, either. That's because the old camp bugle call, the grim regimented "play," and the peremptory stop-whatever-you're-doing routine of summer camps are disappearing. Coming in is the idea that on a summer vacation a child should do the things he wants to do.

Before the season is over about one out of every six schoolchildren will have attended a summer camp of some sort. To keep these 5.5 million campers in camp, their parents will spend more than a quarter of a billion dollars this summer.

Summer camping took considerable time to reach those impressive figures, with only slight increases from year to year. But now there is a real resurgence. Day camps, operating near big cities during the daylight hours, have burgeoned, and the residence camps have suddenly begun showing big jumps in enrollments. But it is not the number of children in camp that accounts for the current controversy and excitement on the subject; it is what they are doing. An astounding array of activities has been added to camp programs. Denounced as gimmicks by some and hailed as creative contributions by others, they have made the summer camp scene more lively, especially for teen-agers, than it has been in decades.

The directory of summer camps (see page 48) lists about 100 different camp activities vigorously pursued now in some of the nation's camps, everything from expert instruction in baseball at the Dodgertown Camp for Boys in Vero Beach, Fla. to desert exploration trips in Arizona or canoe trips in Maine. This suggests the wide range of interests among all the camps in the country, the recent increase in their specialized training, the fanciful nature of some of the programs.

"Instead of remolding the child to fit the camp," said one expert recently, "the camp is remolding to fit the child." A descriptive listing for a California camp in the American Camping Association's Directory of Accredited Camps says simply, "Campers choose each day the program activity they wish. Simple life!" The modern emphasis on letting the camper do what he wants doesn't mean total anarchy; he merely selects his favorite from the available programs but these are broader than ever before, especially in sports. Summer camps always taught swimming, of course, but now they must contend with such vacation rivals as the family-oriented country club, the Little Leagues, home swimming pools, teen-age travel tours and family camping trips. To the dismay of traditionalists, the new camps are teaching everything. Some even are running Little League or Babe Ruth League teams of their own, "doing in the woods," says one critic, "what could be done better in the city. The true purposes of camping are being subverted."

True, the emphasis on providing the children with training in whatever they want leads occasionally to excessive responses. You can find a camp in Maine where a boy is spending his vacation practicing judo, while at another camp a schoolmate is taxing his brains boning up on how to bowl. There is a camp in New York state where children learn to water ski and also audition for a television program, all in a Far Western "ranchy" atmosphere. At a really "progressive" camp these days you won't find any competition, but boys and girls may "noncompete" in pioneering or journalism. Other camps offer star study, sketching, telescope making, trampoline instruction, ghost-town explorations, burro packing, gold mining, covered-wagon trips, marine biology, milking, roller-skating, folk singing and folk dancing. "Boys sleep in Sioux tepees," says the descriptive literature of one camp.

At the opposite extreme one can find camps where Spanish and French lessons are gently spooned out to recalcitrant students as they loll on the beach, or camps that are lodged in converted resort hotels where maids tidy up the beds, adjust the air conditioning and vacuum the wall-to-wall carpeting, and where European chefs prepare the chuck wagon lunch. Typical happening in one of these: the camp nurse was called in to treat a hiker for a barked shin; he had tripped over the doorsill of a gift shop.

Still, the daily regimen for many of this summer's camp visitors is what it has always been: living in the woods or on the beach (there are two acres per camper in the U.S. camp grounds), savoring the simpler pleasures of campfire cooking, tent pitching, horseback riding, hiking, fishing, tree-leaf identification, lariat plaiting and being rained upon. To ignore these activities would seem almost "un-American"; they have provided the traditional program in summer camps for decades, and summer camps are a 100%-made-in-the-U.S.A. concept.

Harvard's great president, Charles William Eliot, said that the organized summer camp was "the most significant contribution to education that America has given to the world." In 1861 a Connecticut schoolteacher, Frederick William Gunn, set up a summer out-in-the-woods camp to supplement the regular school year for boys. Twenty years later came two more, one for "weakly" boys and the other for wealthy boys who were thought to be frittering away their manliness and natural usefulness at the swank resorts to which their parents dragged them. Camp Dudley, the oldest camp in continuous existence in the country, was started in New York state by the Young Men's Christian Association in 1885. The Boy Scouts pitched their first tent in 1910, and the Girl Scouts in 1912. Now nonprofit organizational camps, like those of the Boy Scouts and the Y, account for three out of four camps. Private camps and municipal camps make up the remainder.

From the start every child was supposed to have fun at camp, but the fun was admittedly a sly device to keep the camper happy while he absorbed the lessons of work-sharing, self-reliance and selflessness. Those words came easily in Founder Gunn's time; what is surprising is that they still are true about camping today. Julian Wilder, a camping authority and an assistant professor at Springfield College, puts it this way: "In few places in our way of life is a child exposed to the same situations as in a camp. Camps can crisscross geographical, social and, increasingly, racial lines, and they present a child with 24-hour living among children. Camping is an unapproached way to equip oneself for successful adjustment to the adult world. A child—I don't care if he is underprivileged or overprivileged—cannot be a mere onlooker in a camp."

Another powerful argument for summer camps is that they engender a love of the outdoors that becomes rewarding in adult life. A camp director recently said that one of the best friends nature has in these days of agitation over conservation is the adult who has learned to love the outdoors as a camper. "Any parent who imagines that the exposure to nature that a child gets at camp is a triflng thing is woefully confused," he added.

While some traditional camp directors feel that the special activities are only jejune doodads that becloud the issue, others argue that no amount of gimmicks can ever change the solid essentials of camping: democratic, cooperative living in the wide outdoors. "The traditional aspects of camping will continue," said one expert, "for the very simple reason that the more city life becomes artificial and stifling, the more outdoor life becomes appealing. That doesn't mean that kids want to sleep on rocks, or that it would prove anything useful if they did. It does mean that the world of nature has something very vital to offer our society, and children are shortchanged if they never find it."

As valuable as authorities claim organized camping to be, the whole idea nevertheless has been badly abused in the past. Anyone can open a summer camp. The only interference the amateur director encounters is from the state government which, in most cases, prescribes rudimentary health and sanitation procedures. If such camps succeed at all, it is, says one wise observer, solely because "of the unbelievable patience of children, who will forgive anybody for almost anything." Some camp directors worked principally "to imbue the children with a loyal, no-complaining team-spirit idea to the point where the kids are afraid to mention anything short of a broken leg." Leadership in a summer camp is whatever the director wants or is able to make it: if comic books and candy bars keep everybody happy, he is free to ordain that as camp policy.

But the way of such camps is growing harder. The camping organizations, including the Association of Private Camps, the Catholic Camp Association and the American Camping Association, now enforce standards that reach a majority of the nation's camps. The American Camping Association, the largest and oldest, covers almost half of the country's resident camps. It has a strict code of standards that govern everything from the temperature of the refrigerator to the number of showers in the wash-shed, and the standards for camp personnel are as rigorous as those for equipment.

The camp that was once able to make its way by offering children a bare minimum of food, equipment and activities is also having harder going these days for another reason: Parents are holding out for camps with enriched programs and well-trained personnel. Still another force hampering the quick-buck operator is the current trend toward blending real training and instruction, whether in nature study or social responsibility, with valid summer fun—a task beyond the capacities of hard-bitten camp operators who are in it to make as much money as they can.

And the trend is in some respects leading right back to the spirit in which Frederick William Gunn founded the first summer camp. Combined with the new freedom is a renewed emphasis on learning; not a mere continuation of school, but learning things that cannot be taught in a classroom. At present some 800 U.S. school districts include camping in their curriculum. Authorities on camping are looking forward to the time when all school districts will have camps, and when two weeks in the woods, with recreation and instruction intermingled, will be commonly accepted by a child as two minutes at the blackboard.


There are about 2,000 private summer camps in the U.S., ranging from the traditional camp with a general program to camps with interests as esoteric as learning the trampoline or reducing overweight girls. The variety is enormous. The facilities, interests, programs and the range in size and location are all bewildering.

Listed below are 15 camps with diverse programs which will give the SPORTS ILLUSTRATED parent and child an idea of the variety of choices available. These are only a small fraction of the excellent private camps in existence. The American Camping Association in Martinsville, Ind. and the Association of Private Camps in New York City can provide further information, although there are many first-rate camps that do not belong to any association. The box on page 50 gives a list of questions to help evaluate the camp of your choice. Personal recommendations, brochures and talks with camp directors are all helpful, but nothing is quite so useful as visiting and observing the camp you are considering for next year. The time to make the visit is now, while the camp program is in full swing.

All American village, Mammoth Lakes, Calif. For 100 boys and girls from 7 to 16. Four weeks $400, eight weeks $750. Kids live at Mammoth Mountain Inn. The camp is operated by Basketball Star Jerry West of the Los Angeles Lakers, Linebacker Les Richter of the Rams and Pitcher Don Drysdale of the Dodgers. The program is keyed to physical fitness and includes baseball, basketball, horsemanship, snow and water skiing, hiking, touch football, ice skating and riflery. Mountain lakes and streams also offer fine trout fishing.

Chase Tennis Center, Westtown, Pa. Two four-week sessions for 150 boys and girls 10 to 16, at $485 for four weeks. The center is located on the 600-acre Westtown School campus. Facilities at the school include 20 tennis courts, a tennis stadium, a lake and an indoor pool. Campers have four hours of instruction and supervised practice daily. Top-ranking professionals and amateurs such as Vic Seixas, Pauline Betz Addie and Don Budge are visiting guest tennis instructors. Chase Tennis Center also offers swimming and diving instruction, canoeing and fishing on the lake, and soccer, volleyball and basketball.

Dodgertown Camp for boys, Vero Beach, Fla. An all-sports program for 200 boys 9 to 16. Eight-week season $600. Camp is located on site of Los Angeles Dodgers' spring-training grounds. Campers use all major league facilities including three ball fields, six batting cages and the stadium, plus two outdoor basketball courts, two tennis courts and swimming pool. Mornings are devoted to inter-squad games where boys compete in their own age groups and also take batting practice, pitching and fielding instruction. The camp program includes fishing in the Indian River, ocean swimming, horseshoes, golf, touch football, track and riflery.

Camp Dudley, Westport, N.Y. A YMCA camp maintained and operated by private funds for 300 boys 10½ to 16. Four weeks $240, eight weeks $450. Dudley has 400 acres along Lake Champlain and an additional 200 acres of untouched forest. Facilities include a new gymnasium, boathouse with 30 rowboats and 34 canoes, four baseball diamonds, 10 tennis courts, rifle range, soccer field, a two-hole practice golf course, two outdoor basketball courts, archery range and three swimming areas. Dudley has a traditional camp program stressing all waterfront activities as well as many land sports, including lacrosse. Physical fitness is an important part of camp life. Boys spend three to four hours weekly at the camp gym. The fitness program consists of sit-ups, pull-ups, shuttle run, standing broad jump, 50-yard dash, 600-yard run, softball throw and push-ups.

Gray Gables Theatre Workshop, Ossining, N.Y. Coed for 75 nonprofessional children from 12 to 18. Eight-week season $800. The 29-acre theater camp includes dancing and dramatic writing shops and studios, an indoor and outdoor theater. Professional instruction and seminars in all phases of theater: drama, dance, music, band, stagecraft, shop, lighting, costuming and playwriting. This year the workshop will produce Dark of I he Moon, Brigadoon and an original revue. Broadway producers attend showcase performances. A touring company of 35 will make two road trips. For evening recreation there is swimming, fencing, tennis, team sports and dances.

Perry-Mansfield camp, Steamboat Springs, Colo. A riding camp for 130 girls 8 to 17. Eight-week season $635, four weeks $385. Located on western slope of Rockies, Perry-Mansfield has two large riding rings, a jumping ring and 50 horses. Five riding instructors teach both western and eastern riding, including schooling of horses, jumping and preparation for hunting. Advanced riders take two-and three-day pack trips to the rugged canyon country near Sawtooth Range. Camp also offers instruction in swimming, tennis and drama and dance classes.

Prairie Trek Expedition, Thoreau, N. Mex. A wilderness trip with fieldwork in natural history for 24 boys 12 to 17. Eight weeks $650. Purpose of expedition is to explore wilderness regions—investigate physical features, fauna, flora and cultures, collect and prepare specimens. Boys stay two weeks at Cottonwood Gulch, the 440-acre base camp in the wild Zuni Mountains. Six weeks are spent on trips exploring the mountains, canyons and desert country in the wilderness regions of Utah, Arizona and Colorado. Campers travel caravan style in specially equipped trucks, establishing camps and practicing fundamentals of wilderness camping. There is a similar expedition (Turquoise Trail) for 24 girls 12 to 16 in the same areas. Fee is $650.

Quarter Circle v Bar Ranch Camp of Orme School, Mayer, Ariz. for 175 boys and girls from 9 to 17. Eight-week season, including 11-day motorized camping trip through the Southwest, $725. Six-week season $600. (Laundry, pack trip and craft supplies $50 extra.) Boys live in cabins and adobe bunkhouses, girls in the school's dormitories. Camp is on a 40,000-acre working cattle ranch, has 110 horses, three tennis courts and a 35-foot-by-90-foot pool. Activities include riding and horsemanship, ranching, conservation, a daily ranch chore period, optional pack trip, swimming, riflery, Indian lore, archery, tennis.

St. Croix Voyageurs, Auburn, Me. Maximum of 25 boys, from 13 to 17. Seven-week season $600. No extras. Camp is run by Linwood L. (Zeke) Dwelley, who is a veteran Class-A Maine guide and also a high school physical education director. There is wilderness canoeing in canvas canoes on Maine's Allagash River, with side trips up feeder streams and to remote lakes and ponds. The canoe trip is preceded by four days of instruction and training at Chesuncook Lake base camp. Boys live "in canvas by day, under canvas by night"; canoe; fish for brook trout, landlocked salmon and togue; hike; swim; do daily chores and wilderness cooking. They also learn compass and map reading, tree identification, conservation theory and practice in the use of the ax.

Shaker Village Work Group, Pittsfield, Mass. A work project for 85 boys from 14 to 17 and for 85 girls from 13 to 16. Eight-week season, with a sliding scale of $50 to $725. The camp is on a 1,000-acre tract; the campers live and work in original Shaker dwellings and workshops in an 18th-century Shaker village. There they are engaged in restoring the original village, repairing and rebuilding the historic buildings and reviving some of the Early American industries and crafts such as weaving, herb raising and woodcraft. The "villagers" raise livestock, do farming and forestry work, landscaping and beekeeping. Athletic facilities include a private lake for swimming and boating, tennis courts, baseball, basketball and volleyball fields.

Summer Camp Afloat, Grand Bahama Island. For 100 boys and girls from 10 to 18. Six-week season $985 (includes $100 fare allowance to and from island; uniforms about $20 extra). Campsite is the luxurious 2,000-acre Grand Bahama Hotel resort with air-conditioned rooms, swimming pool (185 feet by 90 feet), seven tennis courts and an 18-hole golf course. The camp utilizes the resort's fleet of 40 boats: speedboats, sailboats, cruisers and a catamaran. Summer Camp Afloat specializes in scuba-and skin-diving, navigation, seamanship, water skiing and salt-water fishing. The varied land sports include archery, trap shooting and bowling. The camp charters schooners and ketches for day cruises and for special three-day cruises.

Treetops, Lake Placid, N.Y. Treetops has a senior camp for 80 boys and girls 10 through 13 and a separate camp for 60 younger children 7 to 10. Eight-week season $750. Facilities include a large farm with 22 horses and ponies, cows, pigs, chickens, geese, ducks and goats, camp gardens, two riding rings, two baseball diamonds and Round Lake on which the camp fronts. The surrounding woods are laced with fine riding, walking and nature trails. Treetops has a traditional camp program that includes swimming, sailing, baseball, arts and crafts, riding, fishing, canoeing, music, science and carpentry. Children do barn chores, feed and water the animals and work in camp gardens. They climb mountains, hike and make several overnight horseback and canoe trips.

Tripp Lake Camp, Poland, Me. For 225 girls from 9 to 16. Eight-week season $950 (horseback riding optional at $5 an hour). A traditional camp program of land and water sports that includes pioneer camping, field hockey and canoeing. Tripp Lake has 10 tennis courts, four Softball diamonds, two basketball courts, two hockey fields and a junior athletic field. On frequent day trips and longer trips girls fish off the Maine coast, paddle through the inland lake country and rough it in the White Mountains.

Viking, Orleans, Mass. A saltwater sailing camp on Cape Cod for 100 boys from 8 to 15. Eight-week season $625 (laundry and incidentals about $20 extra). Experienced counselors instruct boys in sailing, seamanship and racing tactics. Riflery, model-boat building, tennis, swimming and canoeing are also part of the program. The camp has a fleet of 18 sailing craft (sloops, catboats and sailfish), also 12 rowboats, five canoes, three out-boards and a high-powered 24-foot launch. Boys take overnight trips under sail. Viking competes in weekly races with neighboring camps.

Wings USA, Windham center, Conn. Limited to 25 boys and girls 13 to 18. Season of eight weeks includes 50 hours of FAA ground training $750 (actual flight instruction of 12 hours $250 extra). Base of operations is Windham Airport. All instructors are FAA-certified personnel. Curriculum takes camper from complete ground school training program to soloing (for those over 16). Programs prepare students for Private Pilot Written Examination and Flight Test. Piper Cherokee and Colt dual-control planes are used. Campers use recreation and living facilities of Camp Windham, where there is swimming, fishing, water skiing and accordion and guitar instruction.


LEADERSHIP. Is the camp director a mature and understanding person? Has he had at least 10 years of camping experience in the field? Does he have a philosophical concept of the nature and goals of his camp? Are the counselors experienced, trained in their areas of instruction and at least 19 years old? Is the ratio of children to counselors no more than 7 to 1?

CAMP PROGRAM. Is it varied, well-balanced and flexible enough to fit the camper's needs? Are there adequate opportunities for the camper to learn new skills and develop old ones? Is the equipment up-to-date? Is the camp a highly competitive one with the Reds and the Blues vying for honors? Or is it one where a noncompetitive child can find fun and satisfaction? And which does your child need?

LIVING CONDITIONS. Are the meals well planned? Are sleeping facilities well spaced, comfortable and well ventilated? Six children per cabin with one or two counselors is an average bunk complement.

HEALTH AND SANITATION. Are the sanitary facilities (water, preparation of food, sewage, garbage disposal) adequate? Is a registered nurse in attendance and is a doctor readily available?

SAFETY. Is there a counselor in charge of waterfront activities at all times? Are there satisfactory measures to prevent fires? Is the campsite safe, with no unprotected cliffs, dangerous waters or other physical hazards?



After two hours of riding instruction in her first season at western camp, 12-year-old Blythe Howland proudly carries her saddle through the barnyard at Quarter Circle V Bar Ranch Camp.



At a "horse camp" in Arizona 9-year-old Ronnie Pelott (above) demonstrates calm mastery in bridling a horse, something he learned in his two seasons there. At right, Shari Heller of Phoenix, riding her own horse, Pal, demonstrates the result of training in a camp cloverleaf barrel race.



Camp with the St. Croix Voyageurs means a seven-week canoe trip through northern Maine wilderness for the two intent 13-year-olds (left) shown on the West Branch of the Penobscot.



Teen-agers at Summer Camp Afloat strap on air tanks for scuba-diving class in Grand Bahama Hotel pool. When the training period is completed, they will explore the coral reefs.



At end of all-day cruise organized by Summer Camp Afloat, Charlsie Huey and Mark Bromberg (above) watch moonlight from bow of the schooner Bonfire. The start of a 30-mile cruise (right) finds boy campers on Bonfire ogling girl campers aboard Traveler II.